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<p>&quot;Red Tails&quot;</p>

"Red Tails"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

'Red Tails' defeats 'Beasts,' 'Django Unchained' and 'Flight' at the NAACP Image Awards

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis win top acting honors

I suppose it's a bit of a surprise that the George Lucas-produced "Red Tails" beat out some stiff Oscar competition in Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" and Robert Zemeckis's "Flight," so there it is. But the wealth was spread, as Benh Zeitlin, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington all received prizes. In fact, Washington won three awards on the night, taking Best Actress in a Drama Series ("Scandal") and the President's Award for public service in addition to her supporting prize for "Django." Check out the full list of motion picture winners below, and as always, keep track of the season via The Circuit.

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<p>Taylor Swift with the Civil Wars</p>

Taylor Swift with the Civil Wars

Grammy Awards 2013: Handicapping Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Can Taylor Swift top Little Big Town or Eli Young Band?

As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance Nominees:
"Even If It Breaks Your Heart" – Eli Young Band
"Pontoon" – Little Big Town
"Safe & Sound" – Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars
"On The Outskirts Of Town" – The Time Jumpers
"I Just Come Here For The Music" – Don Williams featuring Alison Krauss


WHO’S MISSING: This is one of the categories that got created in 2012 when the Grammys shrunk the number of awards from 109 to 78. It blends the previously separate categories of best country performance by a duo or group with vocal, best country collaboration with vocals and best country instrumental performance. In other words, ongoing groups are contending with one-off performances. Because of the consolidation, worthy acts like  Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Zac Brown Band and The Band Perry got left by the wayside.

THE PLAYERS: Despite the acts I mentioned above, country music is dominated by solo acts right now. Of Billboard’s Top 50 country songs for 2012, only 11 were by duos or groups. Here’s where the Grammy Awards veer radically from country-only awards like the Country Music Awards or the Academy of Country Music Awards: the Grammys look at artists like The Time Jumpers or Don Williams/Alison Krauss, who seldom get airplay and are on the fringe of current country and plop them down alongside the hottest names.

THE ODDS: If only the Nashville community voted on this award it would go to Little Big Town for “Pontoon,” the coed quartet’s first No. 1 single after years of toiling away. However,  if interlopers are voting, they could sway the vote to Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars (The Civil Wars won last year). Then again, it’s a foolish person who bets against Alison Krauss: she has won more Grammys than any other female, even more than Barbra Streisand. Since this is only the second year in the category, it’s hard to spot any trend.

THE WINNER:
Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars, “Safe & Sound”

Previous Predictions:

Best Rock Song
Best R&B Performance
Best Pop Vocal Album
Best New Artist



 

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<p>Wolverine may have more to worry about than a single robot head in 'X-Men:&nbsp;Days Of Future Past'</p>

Wolverine may have more to worry about than a single robot head in 'X-Men: Days Of Future Past'

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Mark Millar discusses Sentinels, Kitty Pryde, and 'Days Of Future Past'

Sounds like they're making some great choices for the new film

Mark Millar has obviously discovered the trick to cloning human beings, and he's used himself as a test subject.  Sure, I can't prove that, but it's really the only possible explanation for his omnipresence right now.

He's got new comic titles dropping constantly, he edits CLiNT magazine, he curates the annual Kapow! event, and now he's also employed by 20th Century Fox, who brought him in to help create a cohesive world for their Marvel properties.  That last job is the one I'm most curious about, because Millar is, by his very nature, a deconstructionist.  Much of his work has been about pulling these icons apart and reassembling them in new ways.

As Fox gets ready to make "X-Men: Days Of Future Past," it feels like this is a make or break moment for their franchise.  I like most of the movies that have been made about the X-Men so far, but I think they're in a weird position right now.  Matthew Vaughn's "X-Men: First Class" essentially rebooted the film universe, and in doing so, made several choices that ignored the continuity of the Singer films and Ratner's "Last Stand," while also doing a few things that tied directly into the Singer films.

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<p>Joe King</p>

Joe King

Exclusive Interview: The Fray’s Joe King stepping out solo with KING

King isn’t stepping off, though: The Fray aim for Q4 release

The Fray’s Joe King is ready to step out solo with a new pop-oriented project, with a radio-ready single and an album in the wings. The Colorado-based songwriter will be releasing new music under the simple name KING and aims to release an EP of fresh material by April. 

Since starting out 11 years ago, The Fray has featured King and singer Isaac Slade splitting songwriting duties, each track a collaboration. After three albums, some No. 1 hit singles and millions of tickets sold, King felt that the time was now to hunker down and release tracks that are all his, from writing to the performance.
 
The project has been in the works for a year-and-a-half, with songs produced as the band has been on tour. Now, as The Fray are in-between albums in the release cycle, King knew the time was right. He’d be able to make the solo effort he wanted and still remain with the band.
 
“There comes a bit of a downside when you’re writing these songs, and you end up letting your best friend sing them. It’s worked, and he’s the only other person I ever want to sing them. He’s a great singer, and I’m not trying to throw that whole thing. But creatively, it became such an urge. I kept thinking ‘I’m ready for this,’” he said in our recent interview. “It’s been talked about. I just hadn’t been in the place to do it.”
 
On a personal level, the 32-year-old hitmaker found himself in a “place” he’d never been before. Married when he was 19, King is now divorced, with some free time and some new “beginnings.”
 
“Post-divorce and dating girls… Man, yeah, I’ve never done that. I’ve only been with one woman, so I definitely started to experience things and new ways of thinking. Making this album became this self-discovery thing,” he said. 
 
The result, in part, is lead single “Need a Woman” featuring Trombone Shorty, with the hooky refrain “I need a woman by Friday.” The first lyric: “I get addicted to beginnings.”
 
"It’s about loving the beginnings of something, the flirtatiousness and that energy.”
 
Sonically, “Need a Woman” is synth-driven and uplifting, King’s rich, consonant-heavy vocals balanced with high keyboard pings and persistent programmed drums. And it does not at all sound like the Fray, nor what one would really call a “breakup record.”
 
“I didn’t want it to sound like a stripped down, acoustic, real melancholy piano thing. On so many solo records, that kind of thing’s really obvious. Not that that's bad -- everyone wants to do a Ray Lamontagne record. But I didn’t want to play coffeeshops,” he said. “I became obsessed with Peter Gabriel and his breakaway from Genesis, because it doesn’t sound like a solo thing. His approach to production, the blending of synth bass and real drums, programmed drums and real drums… I love that ‘80s blending of instruments.”
 
Helping with the aesthetic was Brooklyn producer Adam Pallin, who would swap tracks with King remotely, and other Denverites like Patrick Meese (Tennis, Meese) and Grammy Award-winning artist/producer Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic). He’d bounce his songs off of other area musicians, like Immaculate Noise favorite Nathaniel Rateliff.
 
“I did all of my vocals at [Tedder’s] place. He’s like Nathaniel. They’ll play something for you and it’ll just kinda kick your ass. They’ll show you what they’re working on and you’ll be like, ‘F*ck, I gotta step up my game,’” King said. “Someone told me, ‘Don’t do this because you’re reacting to The Fray.’ And I’m not, it’s not a brush-off to what The Fray does. It’s hard being the songwriter continuing to write songs for 10 years and then after a while it becomes empty when you don’t have an outlet. It’s a family, you have to change it up and push yourself.”
 
So just what does his family think of the music? King didn’t want to play the songs for the rest of The Fray until they were in finished form. So it was only at the end of December they sat down.
 
“These are my brothers, I care more about what they think about than my mother. As I hit play, I thought, am I having an affair?” he said. “After it ended, it was the response I dreamed of. Ben clapped. Isaac was like, ‘Holy sh*t.’ Dave was dead silent, and that’s Dave for you. Ben was like, ‘All I cared about was that it doesn’t sound like The Fray.’”
 
Now King is shopping KING to labels with plans for a five-song, as-yet-untitled EP due this spring and hopes that “Need a Woman,” when it's released, becomes a 2013 summer jam.
 
And this is not at all to say that The Fray – who have best-sellers like “How to Save a Life” and “You Found Me” – won’t have more hits of their own. King is confident KING set won’t interfere with his band’s album-making schedule, as the group is currently writing for their fourth full-length for an estimated Q4 release this year.
 
“As I’ve been talking to labels, they rightly asked ‘How’s it gonna work with The Fray?’ But I’m not as concerned about that. It’s just now I feel that same anxiety I felt seven years ago, when The Fray was about to put out [the album ‘How to Save a Life’]. I’m thinking, Are people gonna like this? I believe in it. I think its good. It’s a happy, confident new artist anxiety.”

 

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Oscar Talk: Ep. 104 -- 'Argo' steamroller

Oscar Talk: Ep. 104 -- 'Argo' steamroller

How much farther can it go?

Welcome to Oscar Talk.

In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.

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<p>&quot;The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey&quot;</p>

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Roundup: How 'The Hobbit' made the VFX shortlist sight unseen

Also: 'Argo' an illegal hit in Iran, and Hackford to relinquish DGA presidency

The shortlisting and ensuing "bakeoff" that results in the Oscar nominees for Best Visual Effects is a notably imperfect process -- all the more so when the Academy compressed its voting calendar by a couple of weeks. David S. Cohen looks into this year's race, and finds that "The Hobbit" made the Academy's 10-film shortlist despite the fact that most of the VFX committee hadn't seen it by November 28, the day they met to draw up the list. Chairman Craig Barron describes the sight-unseen inclusion as a no-brainer, but other members were less happy: "One interest is concerned with having an awards process that is conducted as promptly as possible, and that of course has to vie with the interest that is mainly preoccupied with ensuring the process maintains its integrity," says Jonathan Erland. "It's self-evident that there's a problem." What do you think? [Variety]

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<p>If you're waiting for a phone call that will make you famous, you'll answer the phone anywhere, anytime.</p>

If you're waiting for a phone call that will make you famous, you'll answer the phone anywhere, anytime.

Credit: Oscilloscope Pictures

Check out the classically stylized poster for Matteo Garrone's lacerating satire 'Reality'

A Cannes favorite from 2012 finally arrives in U.S. theaters

If you've never seen Matteo Garrone's film, "Gommorah," you really should.

It's a Mafia movie, but not the way we've come to think of them over the years.  Garrone made a film that captured a very organic, very lived-in ecosystem that is run by thugs and punks.  "Gomorrah" plays like a refutation of every single movie every made that's made the criminals look good.  The closest comparison I can make is "City Of God," the film that opened my eyes to how the favelas work and how society has reconfigured itself, leaving this lawless space to its own devices.  The unobtrusive documentary-styled style he employed only added to the feeling of authenticity.

That was 2008, and since then Garrone's been radio silent.  I saw his new film "Reality" at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and I liked it quite a bit.  I called it the story of Job as told in the age of reality TV.  His star, Aniello Arena, gives a remarkable performance as Luciano, an Italian guy whose dreams of appearing on Italy's "Big Brother" seem to vanishing a little more every day, and it's killing him.  He's the family member who is always clowning around, cracking jokes, making his daughter laugh on her wedding day, He's a good and decent man with a small but respectable fish market, and he supplements that income with tiny scams on the side.  He is a happy man, but all those jokes he cracks hide an ambition that eventually becomes fixated on this stupid TV show.

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<p>Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and Clark Duke in &quot;The Office.&quot;</p>

Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson and Clark Duke in "The Office."

Credit: NBC

Review: 'The Office' - 'Junior Salesman/Vandalism'

Is it a mistake to make Brian the boom mic operator into a character at this point?

A review of last night's "The Office" double-feature coming up just as soon as I redact my resume...

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<p>Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin all know better.</p>

Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, and Alan Arkin all know better.

Credit: Lionsgate

Review: Pacino and Walken are helpless against the inertia of 'Stand Up Guys'

When even Alan Arkin can't make the material work, there is a problem

Boy, I'm tired of "Tax Shelter Theater."

I know the landscape has changed in the last decade for independent financing, and I know it continues to change.  It is a scary time to be making movies, if only because so many things seem to be evolving as we speak, and one of the things that feels most like a holdover from the '80s and '90s is this certain kind of low-budget picture that exists as part of a deal with a distributor, a pipeline of garbage that somehow lands big-name actors while rarely, if ever, cranking out anything worth watching.  There are certain producers who show up on movies and as soon as I see their name, I automatically assume I'm about to see an indifferent piece of junk, and certain company names that set off the same warning bells.  What gets me most about these movies is that they don't have to be so bad.  It's financing that exists simply to service a deal, so why couldn't that money be used to attach those same big names to genuinely worthwhile and adventurous fare?  You can't tell me that a movie as generic and paint-by-numbers as "Stand Up Guys" is the best that can be done with these resources.  You just can't.

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<p>Nicholas Hoult is slightly better-looking than your average undead thing in Jonathan Levine's adaptation of 'Warm Bodies,' opening everywhere today.</p>

Nicholas Hoult is slightly better-looking than your average undead thing in Jonathan Levine's adaptation of 'Warm Bodies,' opening everywhere today.

Credit: Summit Entertainment

Review: 'Warm Bodies' makes great use of Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer

Jonathan Levine's done smart work in adapting the young adult novel

Jonathan Levine has managed to build an interesting filmography without repeating himself so far, and by hopping from genre to genre, he's proven himself to be a very limber filmmaker whose greatest strength is building spaces for actors to do strong work.  "Warm Bodies," based on a young adult novel and no doubt greenlt by Summit to help them in a post-"Twilight" world, is a sincere and savvy take on both "Romeo and Juliet" and the zombie genre, and if there's any justice, this should be a strong spring performer as word of mouth spreads.

Isaac Marion's novel posed a challenge to anyone adapting it because so much of what happens in the book is internal, narrated by the inner monologue of a zombie named R.  Levine, who wrote the script as well as directed, went all-in on the narration idea, and much of the film is married to an ongoing narration by Nicholas Hoult.  It's been fascinating watching Hoult come into focus as a performer.  His work in "About A Boy" was so good that I remember walking out of the movie worried about his future.  He was such a painfully awkward kid, and yet a few years later, watching him on "Skins," he seemed to have transformed completely into a fascinating dead-eyed shark.  He grew into himself and seemed to be particularly good at playing the great-looking shit, the kid who took full advantage of the genetic lottery he won.  Either one of those roles could have been enough to trap him into playing variations on the same character over and over, but seeing one kid play both parts suggested a real depth to what Hoult was capable of, and he continues to prove that with each new performance he gives.

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"Project Runway"

 "Project Runway"

Credit: Lifetime

'Project Runway' recap: 'Spin Out'

The designers must make ping pong uniforms for Susan Sarandon

As Cindy says, "The joy of teams is over. The thrill is gone." Was there ever a thrill? What we have are two teams -- one of which works well together and one of which is a total mess -- and the fact that the show is determined to stick with this structure is making this feel a little like watching "Survivor" during a season in which one team is whittled down to nothing while the other takes every challenge and gets food and fire to boot. I don't know about you, but I don't watch "Project Runway" to see muddy groupthink and mediocre design, and I certainly don't watch it to see echoes of other reality TV shows. I want to see pretty dresses and cool pants and funky jackets. Two weeks in, I am starting to feel deprived. 

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<p>Steven Pasquale in &quot;Do No Harm.&quot;</p>

Steven Pasquale in "Do No Harm."

Credit: NBC

Series premiere review: 'Do No Harm' - 'Pilot'

What did everybody think of the new NBC drama?

I didn't have time to write a review of NBC's "Do No Harm," though Dan and I discussed it for a while on this week's podcast. The short version: though I like Steven Pasquale, this is a weird show that can't entirely settle on a tone, covering the same modern Jekyll & Hyde territory(*) that Steven Moffat's "Jekyll" handled so much better a few years back.

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